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Thrift or treat

A witch’s hat at Value Village in Spokane is among many Halloween accessories available on a small holiday budget.  (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
A witch’s hat at Value Village in Spokane is among many Halloween accessories available on a small holiday budget. (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

When the economy’s going sour, Halloween can seem a little sweeter. A new survey shows that more Americans plan to celebrate the holiday this year, and they plan to spend more than in years past. The survey, by the National Retail Federation, puts the average Halloween spending expected this year at $66.54. Since 2001, that figure has increased 75 percent – to a total of $5.77 billion. It’s not exactly bailout money, but it’s not chopped candy corn. With the holiday a couple weeks away, here are 10 tips and random facts to help you plan your Halloween. One caveat: The list doesn’t include costumes that require sewing or extensive creative work. If you’re doing that, you don’t need any advice from us.

1Make your own. Costumes take the biggest bite in terms of Halloween spending, at an average of $24.17. A cruise through a secondhand store can turn up myriad alternatives at a lower price. Value Village manager Shawn Vose said his store now has “costume consultants” dressed up and roaming the aisles, offering customers help. “Generally, we can get a costume together for under twenty bucks,” he said. If all else fails, there’s always the sheet, the scissors and the magic marker.

2Consider last year’s costumes. If you’re dying for a ready-made outfit, you can find used ones at secondhand stores and elsewhere – or sometimes in your own closet. You might drag out your oldest child’s Batman costume from years past for your youngest child this year. The Dark Knight is supposed to be hot.

3Go political. A mask and a suit is all you need – plus a willingness to argue your side. This year, according to, Barack Obama masks are outselling John McCain masks – 55 percent to 45 percent.

4Organize a costume swap. Recruit others from your neighborhood, school or workplace, and get together to exchange lightly used outfits.

5Give Fido the year off. Maybe your pets don’t need to be festooned with antlers or strap-on cowboys this Halloween. But if you can’t resist – an estimated 7.4 million Americans can’t – here are the top dog costume ideas this year, courtesy of a Web site operated by costume stores: tuxedo; Yoda; cowboy doll riding the dog; Batman; Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”; French maid.

6Find frugality in numbers. Form a little co-op with friends and neighbors, buy candy in bulk and split it up. Consider it an investment – if you take your own kids trick-or-treating, you’ll be getting a diversified treat dividend by the end of the night.

7Know your neighbors. Westerners are a little more likely than average to put on a costume and carve a pumpkin, and a little less likely to throw a party or take the kids trick-or-treating, according to the retail foundation survey. For what it’s worth.

8Recycle and reuse. The Environmental Defense Council urges families to save and reuse Halloween decorations – much as you would Christmas decorations – and to try to buy treats with the least amount of packaging.

9Be ready for a long celebration. “After months of bleak economic news, consumers are looking for a reason to let loose,” said Phil Rist of BIGresearch, which conducted the retail foundation poll. “And with Halloween falling on a Friday this year, consumers may plan to celebrate all weekend long.”

10Think Halloween ’09. The best price of the year for that coveted Storm Trooper costume is likely to come Nov. 1.